HSE 2019 National Service Plan confirms lack of urgency in addressing overwhelming Public Hospital resource deficits

Friday, 21st December 2018
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Friday, 21st December 2018: The Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) is strongly of the view that the 2019 HSE National Service Plan (NSP), published yesterday, fails to even start to address in any meaningful manner the overwhelming capacity deficits in our public hospital and mental health services.   The Association has outlined repeatedly in recent years to Ministers for Health that the underfunding of public hospitals is increasingly damaging the capacity to deliver care to patients. The Association said it has led to record numbers of patients being treated on trolleys and unacceptable waiting lists for inpatient surgical care and outpatient appointments.


Dr Donal O’Hanlon, IHCA President, said that 2019 NSP fails to provide the resources to address the two main capacity deficits in our hospitals, namely the insufficient number of acute hospital beds and the large number of permanent consultant posts that cannot be filled. He said the Government’s current pay policy which is discriminating against new hospital consultants has led to one in five permanent consultant posts being unfillable.


The IHCA President said the staggering deficits in hospital beds and consultants are the root causes of tens of thousands of patients being treated on trolleys and the unacceptable waiting lists for essential surgery and outpatient appointments. Dr O’Hanlon said that there is a clear lack of urgency on the part of the Minister for Health and the Government in providing the required hospital beds and also dealing with a seemingly intractable consultant recruitment crisis. These key issues, highlighted in the government commissioned Capacity Review, the National Development Plan and the Public Service Pay Commission Report, have not been addressed in the proposed service plan.


Dr O’Hanlon said that the extent of the current under-resourcing of our public hospitals is such that essential surgery is being cancelled in many hospitals for large parts of January where theatre closures are the norm. He said that in St James’s Hospital, the largest cancer hospital in the country, 4 of the 13 operating theatres are closed because of bed and staff shortages.


The IHCA President said that a fundamental capacity deficit is exacerbating wintertime hospital overcrowding because of a failure to replace the 1,400 in-patient beds, which were closed since 2006. Furthermore there is no realistic plan to commission the additional 2,600 acute beds recommended in the Capacity Review and funded in the National Development Plan. He concluded that a plan is required to put the 2,600 public hospital beds in place over the next 5 years and fill the 500 or more permanent consultant posts without delay. The drip feed of a few hundred beds that are suggested for 2019, and the Government’s current policy of ignoring the deepening consultant recruitment and retention crisis, are not going to remotely resolve the current deteriorating state of the acute hospital and mental health services.   



For further information contact James Dunny, FleishmanHillard 086 3883903

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